Top headlines from the Board of County Commissioners meeting  

by | Nov 28, 2023

The following are highlights from today’s Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting:      

1. Board approves $3 million grant from the William N. Pennington Foundation: The Board of County Commissioners approved a $3 million grant from the William N. Pennington Foundation for construction costs of the new resource center at the Nevada Cares Campus, which will open next month. For those who are considered underhoused and who lack adequate, fixed housing, along with the many more who are housing insecure, the Resource Center will primarily serve them to identify permanent housing when a housing crisis emerges. Additionally, the Resource Center will benefit people who are currently experiencing homelessness and actively trying to find stability. The Resource Center will be an initial entry point where individuals can shower and wash their clothes, access a mailbox, and witness the benefit of on-site case management.

The William N. Pennington Foundation was founded in 1989 with a focus on supporting education, community services, health care, and medical research primarily in the State of Nevada, with an emphasis on Reno and Northern Nevada. Bill Pennington was a gaming industry pioneer, successful entrepreneur and one of Nevada’s leading philanthropists. The Foundation supports organizations that help people and families persevere through difficult times and has generously supported a number of projects at Washoe County, including parks, the Bowers Pool, search and rescue equipment for the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, and programs for foster children. 

“I’d like to say thank you to the William N. Pennington Foundation for their support of the Cares Campus,” Chair Alexis Hill said. “It shows the work the county is doing is making a difference and private foundations are taking notice, so thank you so much for their incredible support. We couldn’t do it without these public-private partnerships.”

2. Safe Embrace receives special-use permit to expand occupancy: The Board approved a special-use permit for Safe Embrace, a house that provides temporary housing for victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and human trafficking. Safe Embrace has been operating at this location for 20 years and is seeking to increase its occupancy to 18 to 21 residents and waive additional parking and lighting requirements.

The property in its current space qualifies to house 18 residents, and if Safe Embrace converts its garage into additional living space, it would qualify to house up to 21 residents, pending Safe Embrace’s success in connecting to City of Sparks sewer services. Safe Embrace also proposes several actions to address neighbors’ concerns including:  

  • Hiring an additional advocate to live on-site during overnight hours; 
  • Upgrading cameras and security system to monitor the exterior of the residence; 
  • Preparing a Neighborhood Response Program and providing contact information for the shelter director and manager; 
  • Enacting new pet policies including a new pet shelter with a maximum of 3 dogs and 6 cats.  

Washoe County Planning staff conducted thorough analysis of the request and hosted public meetings to gather neighbors’ input, and based on these, staff recommends approval of the permit.  

The Board of Adjustment heard this request in August 2023 but tied in its vote, so the request was technically denied. Safe Embrace appealed this denial to the Board of County Commissioners, and the Board overturned the denial unanimously.  

3. Board appoints Tammi Davis to OPEB Trust Fund: The Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Trust Fund was created in 2010 for the exclusive purpose of providing funds to pay for the post-retirement benefits provided by the employee welfare benefit plans maintained by Washoe County. The OPEB trust has its own governing board and financial statements which are audited annually. The Trust is overseen and managed by the OPEB Trust Board members. The Trust is a legally separate entity from Washoe County. The Board of County Commissioners appointed Tammi Davis, who retired from Washoe County this year after serving as elected County Treasurer and more than two decades in service of the County. She will fill a two-year term ending on November 28, 2025.

4. Board approves MOUs to provide coroner services to 12 other counties: The Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner provides services to Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Esmeralda, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, and Nye counties in Nevada, and Alpine, Lassen, Modoc, and Plumas counties in California. The Board approved memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with these counties for five-year terms that will generate over $1.6 million in revenue for Fiscal Year 2024. This is not new revenue, but continuing revenue that is factored into the Medical Examiner’s budget.

5. Board approves placement of land acknowledgement to future meeting agendas: In September of this year, Commissioner Mariluz Garcia requested that the Board add a land acknowledgement to Board agendas, noting the significance of the American Indian tribes of northern Nevada. The following statement will be added to the boilerplate language on the agendas:

“We begin by acknowledging that we gather today on the ancestral homelands of the Waší∙šiw (Washoe), Numu (Northern Paiute), Newe (Western Shoshone), Nuwu (Southern Paiute), and Pipa Aha (Mojave), the original caretakers of the land that we now call Nevada. Washoe County, formally named after the Washoe people in 1861, continues to be a gathering place and home for Indigenous Peoples, and we recognize their rich history and deep connections to these lands. May we honor their past, present, and future stewardship by remembering that the health of the land and its people are inextricably linked.” 

6. Commissioners allocate District Special Funds to area nonprofits: County Commissioners approved the allocation of District Special Funds to support the following nonprofit organizations:

  • $1,000 to TEDx Reno (District 1) 
  • $1,000 to the Nevada Interfaith Association to support the 2022-2023 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Interfaith Memorial Celebration (District 1) 
  • $2,500 to Urban Roots to support the Gardening for All Initiative, which focuses on building gardens for specific areas and providing garden education (District 2) 
  • $5,000 to Glenn Duncan STEM Academy to support commissioning a physical education teacher, purchasing of athletic equipment, commissioning an artist for a new mural and retouching an existing mural, supporting the students and families with counseling, and purchasing social-emotional classroom materials (District 3) 
  • $5,000 to Options Veterinary Care to provide quality, affordable, and accessible spay/neuter services and veterinary care options for pets (District 3) 
  • $5,000 to support the Gardening for All Initiative (District 3) 

7. Board approves donation to Sheriff’s Office: The Board approved a $3,500 donation from Pete Lissner to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office to be used by the Honor Guard for equipment and travel expenses. Honor Guard members are sworn officers who provide special honors for officers killed in the line of duty or honorably retired from the department.

“Today is ‘Giving Tuesday,’ and we’d like to thank Peter Lissner for thinking of the county and supporting the mission of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard who honor and pay respect to those whose lives are lost in the line of duty,” Commissioner Mariluz Garcia said.